21 May 2024

After three days of thrilling matches at the West and Central Asia Qualification Tournaments, four athletes—two men and two women—secured their spots* at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

In West Asia, 28 players—18 men and 11 women—competed at the qualification event in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Jordan’s Zaid Yaman Abo and Lebanon’s Mariana Sahakian secured the two tickets to Paris.

Players from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, and Syria converged in the mountainous city of Sulaymaniyah. Despite not being considered a top seed, Jordan’s Abo began his journey to Paris from the group stage and advanced to the final, where he defeated one of the top seeds, Bahrain’s Rashed Rashed, 4-1 (11-2, 11-2, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8) to secure the sole ticket in the men’s singles.

In the women’s singles, Lebanon’s Sahakian suffered a 4-1 defeat against Syria’s Hend Zaza in the group stage, but this did not stop her from advancing to the knockout stage as the runner-up in Group 2 behind the Syrian.

Sahakian started her race to Paris in the quarter-final stage, where she defeated Jordan’s Bara Al-Wedian 4-0. She then dominated her compatriot, Maryam Aliali, 4-2 in the semi-final. She avenged her group loss to Syria’s Zaza with a 4-1 (11-3, 6-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-9) victory to secure the sole ticket in the women’s singles.

Jordan’s Zaid Yaman Abo is set to be the first men’s table tennis player to represent Jordan at the Olympic Games.

Jordanian Abo described his qualification as amazing. “It is an amazing feeling, and I am so proud to be the first senior Jordan player to participate in the table tennis event at the Olympic Games and to also represent my country,” he said.

Abo, coached by his father, has increased the number of Jordanians heading to Paris, joining the quartet of Juliana Al-Sadiq, Rama Abu Al-Rub, Zaid Mustafa, and Saleh Al-Sharbati in taekwondo; Obada Al-Kasba in boxing; and Ahmed Abu Al-Saud in gymnastics.

An excited Sahakian, who will be making her second appearance at the Olympic Games after her debut at Rio 2016 in Brazil, said: “I am so happy and excited to be participating in the Olympic Games again. This has been my dream; it has become a reality.”

In the Central Asia region qualification held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Iran’s duo of Nima Alamian and Neda Shahsavari emerged victorious, sealing their places in Paris ahead of players from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Despite losing 4-0 (11-4, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4) to Uzbekistan’s Zokhid Kenjaev in the group stage, Alamian bulldozed his way to the semi-final, where he confronted top seed Kirill Gerassimenko of Kazakhstan. The Iranian showed class with a 4-2 (11-5, 12-10, 6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9) victory to set up a final clash against his brother, Noshad Alamiyan.

The younger Alamian had an edge over his sibling with a convincing 4-1 (11-4, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7) win to clinch the sole ticket in the men’s singles, qualifying for his third appearance at the Olympic Games.

In the women’s singles, Shahsavari was unbeaten from the group stage to advance to the semi-final stage, where she was tested by her compatriot, Mahshid Ashtari. She prevailed in an explosive match with a 4-3 (9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-4, 8-11, 7-11, 11-9) victory. In the final deciding match, Shahsavari clashed against Kazakhstan’s Sarvinoz Mirkadirova. The encounter was thrilling, with both players aiming for victory, but ultimately the Iranian prevailed 4-3 (4-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-13, 13-11) to secure her third Olympic Games ticket to Paris.

For Alamian, securing a place at his third Olympic Games was an amazing feeling. “It will be my third participation in the Olympic Games. Even though I lost my first match in the group stage, I am now happy to qualify for the Olympics after beating my brother in the final. It was indeed a proud moment with amazing feelings. I will surely prepare well for Paris, and I must thank my coach, Mr. Jamil, and team, as we all tried our best,” Alamian said.

Shahsavari believes this might be her last Olympic Games, but she intends to enjoy her stay in Paris. “I am so happy and excited, as this is my third Olympic Games. I enjoyed my game and tried to play naturally. I am savouring the moment, as this might be my last Olympics, so I want to make it very memorable,” she said.

* The participation of athletes in the Olympic Games is contingent upon their respective National Olympic Committees’ selection for representation at Paris 2024, as per their exclusive authority.

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